10 June 2019
did you choose to do research into mental health?
I was influenced by two things. The first was a
fascination with the brain. The second was the obvious need to improve
treatments for people with mental health problems. I was also convinced that
this was the area of medicine that was going to see the most change during my
I was inspired by a lot of excellent clinical
scientists who dedicated their careers to understanding the causes of mental disorders.
I believe it is now the mission of my generation to translate this into better
are you currently working on?
We are working on a number of projects. However, one
that is particularly exciting at the moment is our work on a class of calcium
channels that have been shown to be associated with mental health problems like
schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. This work is important because we know that
we can make drugs to target these channels, so they may offer new opportunities
How does your research inform your clinical practice and vice versa?
There is an increasing linkage between genetics and
psychiatry. As we understand more about the genetic contributions to
psychiatric conditions like autism and schizophrenia we need to work more
closely with our clinical genetics colleagues. We have therefore established
ways of joint working which will help support this new era in psychiatry.
changes have you seen in attitudes towards mental health during your career?
It is encouraging to see much more public discussion
of mental health issues, including from the Royal Family. Decreasing stigma is
really important, although as yet this hasn’t resulted in a sea change in
public support for mental health research.
do you think the key challenges are for mental health?
We urgently need to translate our advances in
understanding the causes of mental disorders into better treatments. We also
need to see mental health take its full place in terms of recognition and
support alongside other branches of medicine.
advice would you give to people starting out in a career in mental health
It is amazing time to enter the field. There are
huge opportunities afforded by advances in genetics, epidemiology and
neuroscience. Always remember the importance of collaboration – it makes for
better science and better fun. Choose an important question to address – and
remember fundamentally it is all about improving the lives of patients.